OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of the House Energy and Technology Committee did not stop to ask questions before approving House Bill 2813 on Thursday. The measure would allow electricity utilities to shift the risk of their investment in transmission improvements onto ratepayers in an effort to speed development of Oklahoma’s wind power potential.
State Rep. Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa, described the bill to members of the committee as a “jump-start on a historic opportunity” for the state to build the transmission infrastructure needed to advance Oklahoma’s growing wind-generated electricity industry. The committee voted unanimously to approve HB 2813 with no questions or debate.
HB 2813 would direct the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, charged with regulating the state’s electricity utilities, to consider expenditures for transmission upgrades as recoverable from ratepayers, unless the commission finds evidence that the costs exceed the scope of the project as authorized by regional or federal regulators. Traditionally, the commission would allow a utility to recoup costs from ratepayers only after the company could provide evidence of how those expenditures have provided a benefit for customers.
Allowing utilities to recoup their costs on construction works in progress will save customers money in the long run by avoiding the accrual of finance charges on such large, expensive projects, OG&E Vice President of Public Affairs Paul Renfrow told lawmakers on Tuesday. OG&E might be reluctant to take on the $200 million wind transmission project or other needed improvements without the assurance HB 2813 provides that the company will be able to recoup its costs from customers.
“It’s a short-term exposure to our customers, a short-term increase for a tremendous long-term benefit,” Renfrow told a smaller committee on Tuesday.
“In the long term, ratepayers save money.”
HB 2813 will next be heard by the full House of Representatives.
by Janice Francis-Smith
15 February 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding